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Hong Kong police use 3D printers

February 28, 2017

Hong Kong police use 3D printersPolice in Hong Kong are to use 3D printers to recreate crime scenes.

South China Morning Post reported that the 3D printers will help to speed up the construction of models that are presently done by hand, but that the “new technology will not entirely replace officers” that build the hand-crafted models. Models have been used for major incidents in Hong Kong such as the Luxor hot air balloon crash, and the police will make use of the 3D printers to create models for “death inquests and crime investigations”.

Since 1988 the police briefing support unit has built “18 scale models of aircraft and buildings for court inquests”, such as the gun attack in Kowloon Bay in 2014 and the Fa Yuen Street fire in 2011, which killed nine people from Hong Kong. The 3D printers cost HK$10,000 ($1,288/€1,215) each, and Senior Inspector Chan Shun-wai said they would speed up the process and also serve as a “tool to help manual work”.

Chan, who graduated in architectural studies, said: “We need printers to construct complex structures to show the accuracy of the architecture. The finished product made by the printer is simply a piece of plastic. How are we going to make the stall’s roof look like a real iron sheet? It still needs our handiwork to refine it.”

The models are to scale, and police said that they “play an important role in court”, and that witnesses can relay more detailed statements. The models also help to “test the authenticity of testimony” as well as aiding judges and coroners to understand the crime scene, especially when they took place outside of the country.

Ku Chin-pang, Superintendent and Officer in Charge of the Briefing Support Unit, said that officers had to take pictures and measure and collect plans of the area surrounding major crime scenes, and Ku said that he prefers the 3D models to virtual-reality computer images, commenting: “Can the witness say which direction he or she went after walking up the stairs, and the precise location he or she was at just by looking at the virtual scene? I have reservations.”

The Briefing Support Unit is an important part of the Hong Kong police force’s counterterrorism response team, and Ku said that they would be recruiting officers in the second half of the year to fill new jobs.

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